Homepreschool and Beyond

*Relationship *Routine *Readiness *Reading Aloud

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Archive for the ‘Goals’ Category

The “4 R’s” for Early Learners (Preschoolers)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2012

We’ve all heard of the “Three R’s”:  Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most people believe that these are the basic building blocks of education for all children—even preschoolers.

But have you heard of the “Four R’s”?  The four R’s are not only for preschoolers; they are for children of all ages. They are the real building blocks of education–especially for preschoolers. The four R’s include:  Relationship, routine, readiness, and reading aloud.

Relationship is the first and most important part of any child’s education. Our first responsibility as parents is building a relationship of love and trust with our little ones. Once our children learn to love and trust us–ideally during infancy–we can begin to teach them how to have loving relationships with others. The most important relationship we can help our children develop is their relationship with God. (For more, see my tab on Relationship.)

Routine is the second building block.  Preschoolers need a regular daily routine that they can rely on. They need to have regular times for meals, snacks, naps, and learning activities. Even older children rely on that sense of “what comes next”; it keeps them on an even keel emotionally. I’m not talking about a down-to-the-minute, oppressive routine; just a simple plan for the day that gives children security and regularity. (For example routines for children ages 2-3 and ages 4-5, see my tab on routine.)

Readiness: Children of all ages need to develop readiness before they tackle any new task.  “Readiness” simply means that the child is physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually ready for the experience.  Readiness has everything to do with maturity…and since children mature in their own, God-given time-table, parents must learn to be patient and wait until their child is ready…no matter what their neighbor’s child is capable of.

Parents who wait for signs of readiness, interest, and even natural learning to take place will save themselves and their children hours of frustration.

Readiness is especially important during the first eight years of life.  During this time, there is a vast range of “normal” development.  That’s why homepreschooling/homeschooling works so well:  Parents can individualize their children’s learning.  Where their children are “ahead”, they can let them move them along without holding them back.  In areas where their children struggle, they can slow down, relax, and give their children time to develop readiness.

Reading aloud:  Reading aloud to your children is the single most important thing that you can do to help them learn.  Reading aloud, and the discussion that goes with it, does more than teach the content of the book you’re reading:  It also teaches pre-reading skills such as learning that letters make words, learning that print moves from left to right, learning to value and enjoy reading/language, learning the basics of grammar, learning correct pronounciation, and so on.  It also is a great relationship builder!

I believe that these “4R’s” should be the foundation upon which homepreschooling/homeschooling rests. If these priorities are kept in perspective, everything else naturally falls into place. You may ask, “but what about the traditional 3R’s: Aren’t they important?!” Sure they are…once your child is developmentally ready for them. Most preschoolers aren’t. We have to remember that the curriculum in the public schools has been pushed down to the point that what used to be taught in Kindergarten is now taught in preschool, and what used to be taught in the first or even the second grade is now taught in Kindergarten. No wonder so many children are struggling in school! Preschoolers haven’t changed, but the curriculum has…drastically. Yet many parents expect their children to master it.

I take a different approach: I believe we should give the kids an old-fashioned, relaxed, play-based preschool/Kindergarten, and then slowly, over the years, notch those expectations up. You might say: Expect LESS of them when they are little, but MORE of them when they are older. Most public schools have it the opposite way: Expect MORE of them when they are little, but LESS of them when they are older.

This isn’t to say that preschoolers can’t learn. Preschoolers can (and do!) learn so much. In fact, if you take a look at the “skills lists” in Homepreschool and Beyond, you will probably discover a lot of things that you would never think that preschoolers could or should learn (especially about the Lord, or about nature, science, and the world around them.) In these areas especially, I think many parents underestimate their preschoolers. However,we need to remember that the way preschoolers learn is unique (they learn primarily through play,hands-on experiences, and through being read to and talked to) and the things they should learn are not simply their colors, numbers, and alphabet. There is a whole, vast world to explore, and preschoolers are very curious.

By using the foundation of the 4R’s, we can keep our priorities in order (make the main thing the main thing–relationships), and we can lay down a firm foundation for our children’s later years.

In my next post, I will briefly talk about specifics: What specific things do preschoolers need to be learning or doing, if not early formal academics?

© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.


Posted in Academics for Four Year Olds, Academics for Preschoolers, Curriculum, Early Math, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Kindergarten Readiness, preschool at home, preschool curriculum, Readiness, The 4 R's | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How Do You Measure Success (In Homeschool/Homepreschool)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 4, 2012

(Note: This is a previous post that I updated.)

This morning I wrote  a submission for a blog that asked the question, “what makes your home learning method unique?”  The question had three parts to it:

1) What makes your method unique—how does it differ from mainstream, curriculum-based methods?  (Using the 4R’s as the  foundation to all I do.)

2) Why did you choose this path?  (Brief answer:  Because I believe in a balanced, whole-child approach that makes the main thing the main thing–versus methods that concentrate almost exclusively on one area of child development—usually academics.)

3)  How do you measure success?

Number one and number two were self-evident and easy for me to answer.  The last question, “how do you measure success?” was way more difficult.  Here is my (final) answer:

Like most other homeschool moms, I write out yearly goals for my children,  However, the real measure of success is not as simple as a completed math program or a high test score.  Instead, I ask myself the following questions:

About Relationship:

-Am I keeping relationships at the center of our home and our homeschool/homepreschool? Do I prioritize my time to reflect the fact that relationships (with God and with family) are the main thing?!

-Are my children growing in their relationship with the Lord? (Knowledge, understanding, wisdom, character, holiness?)

-Do my children want to please God?

-Do my children hunger after God’s presence/God’s Word?

-Is our parent/child relationship strong and growing?  Do we really talk to each other (conversation–a back and forth proposition?)

-Are the relationships between siblings/extended families strong and growing?

-Do I spend time playing with my children (entering into their world?)

-Do I make the time for relationship-building activities?

About Routine:

-Is our daily routine helping our days run more smoothly?

-Has our routine helped us develop helpful habits?

-Can my children depend on the security of “what comes next?”

-Does my routine include short lessons alternated with play breaks?

-Have I included the “fun stuff” (art, music, nature walks, play, PE etc) in our plan, so they are not overlooked?

-Do my children have plenty of free time for creative play and outside play?

About Readiness:

-Am I watching my children for signs of readiness before introducing something new (interest/curiosity, developing abilities, natural/independent learning?)

-Do I decide what to teach my children strictly according to someone else’s list or timetable (scope and sequence–“what’s expected,” age-by-age), or do I let my children’s own maturity/abilities/interests guide me?

-Do I follow my children’s lead when teaching something new—keeping lessons short and fun (game-based) and stopping if my children express frustration/disinterest?  (Note: Balance this with the knowledge that as children grow older and their abilities increase, they will have to learn some things that they may not want to learn or may not be interested in.  After all, who asks to learn long division?)

About Reading Aloud: 

-Do we spend lots of time reading aloud and discussing what we read/have learned?

-Do we read a variety of different types of books aloud (depending on age:  picture books, storybooks, biographies, poetry, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc?)

-Do we have a variety of different types of books available in our home for our children to choose from/read/browse through independently?

-When I read aloud to my children, do I take my time and enjoy it, too? Do I use expression (making silly sounds and different voices/accents as appropriate) or do I speed through, just to “get it done?”  In short–do I make it special?

About Academic Goals: 

-Are my children achieving reasonable (developmentally appropriate) learning goals, bearing in mind that the abilities of normal children vary greatly from child to child?

-Am I challenging my children without pushing them?

-Do I remember that most people expect far too much of young children, and not nearly enough of older children?  Have I adjusted our expectations/learning styles/curriculum accordingly?

I could share lots of other things that I want my children to achieve—spiritual skills/knowledge, physical skills, skills related to specific learning/academic areas, life skills, etc….and as I stated, I do make yearly, detailed lists of these items for each child.  But as I thought about how I really measure success, I realized that the main measure of my success as a homeschooling mom continues to be centered around the 4R’s.  It seems to me that when the 4R’s are kept in mind, the rest falls into place naturally.  With the 4R’s as a foundation, the needs of the whole child are addressed (including academics.)

Yes, I definitely believe there is more to measuring homepreschool/homeschool success than simply measuring what our children “know” academically (ABC’s, 1, 2, 3’s, test scores, etc.)  True, test scores are important, but they aren’t “the main thing.”

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Matt. 6:32

Live the 4R’s!


© 2010, 2012 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Family Life, Goals, Mothering, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Goals and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! Can you believe it is 2012? I can’t believe how fast 2011 went. Why do the years seem to go faster the older you get?

This is the time of year when many of us reassess our lives and our homeschools, making changes and setting new goals. How are things going for you? I have to admit, I seem to be making the same type of “resolutions” the last several years…I think I have a problem!!

While I’ve been contemplating this and re-working my goals, the Lord has laid something on my heart. We always examine the goals that we think are the “big things” in our lives—the main things–and rightly so. But what about all those little things?! Sometimes those little things add up to really big things—or they are important components of the “big” things.

As always, I think about relationships first. I’ve been considering how much little time I really spend on them. We all know we can never spend enough time with the Lord (reading/studying His Word, praying, etc.) Along the same lines—I’ve also been considering how I model prayer for my kids. I want our prayer time to go way deeper than it has before. And now that my boys are getting bigger, I want to encourage them to pray more on their own, as well as practice/become more comfortable praying aloud—even in front of people outside of our family.

When it comes to my relationship with my kids: I want to be sure that I don’t live only for peace and quiet, or rules, or routines; yes, those things are important, but relationship if MORE important. So I’m asking myself if I’m taking the time to do those little things that communicate my love and availability to my kids. Am I taking the time to build our relationships? Am I doing those “little” things, like:

-Am I giving the boys plenty of (appropriate) loving touch (cuddling, hugs, ruffling hair, rubbing shoulders, patting their backs at night, etc)

-Do I really listen to them, or do I tune them out and say “uh-huh,” without really paying attention?

-Do I call to them across the house, or get up and attend to their needs? (OUCH—I’m SO guilty of this one!)

-Do I do little things to let them know that they are loved/that I’m thinking of them? Things like buying them their favorite yogurt, making their favorite meal/treat, and so on?

-Do I praise their good behavior, naming the character trait they are modeling (obedience, patience, diligence, self-control, etc?)

-Do I take the time to play with them? Play games with them? Get silly with them?

-Am I making time for the “fun stuff” in our homeschool? (We did lots of “fun stuff” over our Christmas break—I want to keep the trend going!)

I know there’s one thing I have been overlooking: Time outside—exercise—otherwise known as PE. All kids need it, but when it comes to pre-hormonal boys….well, let’s just say it becomes a necessity. No matter how I feel, I’ve got to take the time to go outside with the boys and make SURE they spend at least an hour playing hard, be it in free play or in specific skill areas. I’m thinking about putting together a PE post…would that be helpful to any of you?

Finally, I’m going to re-read my tab, “Goals for the Balanced Mom.” I know I have lots of new subscribers, so I’d like to encourage you to take the time to read it, too, if you haven’t already. It talks about those “main things” all children need, no matter their age. By keeping our goals in mind, and remembering those little things that make up our larger goals, we can break our goals into “do-able” bits that we all can accomplish.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Homeschool Preschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Relationships, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Training Your Children for Christ: Steps to Effective Parenting

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on October 22, 2011

 Excerpts from “Love, Marriage, and Home”, by William Booth (founder of the Salvation 

      “There are certain things that parents must do indeed, that only parents can do if their children are to become true servants of God. I don’t want to hide the fact that what I’m setting before you will not be gained without considerable difficulty, carefulness and work. However, nothing truly good or great is ever accomplished without trouble. I am certain that for every intense hour and patient effort this work demands, parents will be abundantly repaid if they succeed.

Things Parents Should Do

     First, there are some things that must be done if you want to reach the great goal in the training of children-for them to love and serve God with a pure heart. You must keep you goal constantly before your mind. Look it in the fact and determine to accomplish it. Don’t let the seductive charms of the world or the temptations of the devil or the promptings of ease and pleasure turn you aside. Ah, Fathers and Mothers, you must make up your minds to do it or die.

Be a holy example. Create and confirm in the hearts of your children the assurance that you yourself are what you want them to become. Practice the same unselfish love and righteousness you ask of them.  Without this, you will never accomplish the goals you have set your heart on.

Teach your children what real Christianity is. Make them understand it. Make them admire it. Explain it as soon as they can take it in. Base your teaching on the principles and examples of the Bible, especially in the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the examples of His disciples, but don’t limit it to them.

You must make following Christ a part of your everyday life. Your children must feel that you are as religious at home as in the meetings, on Mondays and on Sundays, in your work as on your knees. Without always talking to them about it, your faith in God should be the atmosphere of the house, so in that atmosphere they can “live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28).”

All I can say is…wow. Convicting, isn’t it? This is the cry of my heart right now. Is it yours?

Click HERE to read Booth’s complete book on family life (note:  I have not read the other pages linked to this site, and cannot vouch for their content.)  I’m sure a little browsing online will produce more.
of Booth’s works, since they are now in public domain; not easy reading, but definitely worth the time.

I suppose if I analyize it carefully, I would have to qualify this quote with a few of my own points:

-First of all, I believe that we can’t “make” our children understand Christianity; that is the role of the Holy Spirit. But we can and should teach them about it, and do our best to live it out before them day by day.

-Because of free will, I spend alot of time talking to my boys about their choices (along with their consequences)–especially the consequences of sin (sin hurts our relationship with God; sin always hurts us; sin always hurts others. When we step out from under the protective umbrella of God’s will, we are unprotected and there will be consequences.) I also teach them how to repent–it’s more than saying “I’m sorry.” There are three steps: 1) ask God for forgiveness, 2) ask anyone we offended for forgiveness by saying, “I’m sorry I (be specific about what you did), it was (wrong, hurtful, etc), will you forgive me?”, and 3) then turn away from our sin (which often means doing the opposite.)

-I also believe that praying for our children and blessing them is vitally important to sucessful parenting. Pray with your spouse, and if you can, find a prayer partner: A close friend who will pray with you and for you and your family regularly.


Posted in Challenge to Parents, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Mothering, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

New Year’s Resolutions/Planning for a New Homeschool Year

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on December 31, 2010

         Sorry I haven’t posted for so long; I’ve been busy enjoying the season with my children.  We had a wonderful Christmas, and hope that you did, too!  This is the first year that my daughter has had her own money to spend, and she really enjoyed spoiling us all—especially me.

       I really can’t believe that Christmas is over, and that it’s time to start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions/our plans for a new year of homeschooling.  Do you re-examine your school plan this time of year, while you are thinking about your other resolutions?  Your family life?  Your spiritual life?  We do.  Below are some of the questions I have been considering. 

     Let me make it clear:  I am not posting this list so that I can beat you over the head with it.  Rather, I am beating myself over the head with quite a few of the questions.  I do hope some of them will make you think….they sure make me think!!  I believe that every Mom can think of several areas that need attention/improvement. 

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (NIV)

     Here are the questions I’ve been asking myself:

-Am I walking in the Spirit, or in the flesh?  This question is top of my list, because I think it is the most important (along with examining our relationships—see below.)  I think this question is at the heart of everything that happens in our home. 

     Our Pastor has started a series entitled, “Living in the Covenant in the New Year” and it has already been a blessing to me.  I appreciated it so much because Pastor explained our new life in Christ versus “the old man” in a way that even my boys could understand.  (I’ve been trying to explain it to them for years!)

      I hope you’ll take the time to listen to the message linked above.  Also, consider reading the book, “Practicing the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence.  You can read it online for FREE.  It is life-changing…living a perpetual prayer life. 

     Here are the rest of my questions I’m asking myself:

-Am I spending enough time in the Word? 

-Am I spending enough time in prayer?  Specifically, am I praying for my children enough?  Am I consistently praying for their future spouses, as well?

-Am I speaking (AND thinking) blessings over my children, or curses?  When my children come to tell me something, do I act as if they are merely an interruption, or do I listen with care and respect (in other words, do my actions communicate to my children that they are a blessing?)

-Also, what do my children think of themselves?  What do they say about themselves?  I want to be aware of this since our perceptions become our reality…we can “curse” ourselves (as well as our children) with negative self-fulfilling prophecies (“You’re so stubborn”…”Why are you having such a tough time with this?”, <child> “I can’t read!” VERSUS “You are very determined, and you have lots of stick-to-itiveness,” “You’re so clever…I know you can do this!” or  <child> “I can read!  I know I can do it!”)

-Do I control my tongue?  Am I teaching my children to control theirs?

-Am I teaching my children the importance of controlling their thoughts?

-How is my mothering?  Am I doing the things I know I need to do for/with my children mentally/physically/spiritually?  What about discipline-wise? 

-Has my attitude been what it should be?  Do I set a good example to my children?  How are my children’s attitudes doing?  Towards discipline?  Towards school?  How can I help them improve and grow?

-How is my tone of voice?  Am I gentle with my children?  Compassionate?

-Is there enough follow-thru to provide accountability when it comes to obedience, attitude, chores, school, etc?  (This is one I really need to work on—as well as total consistency.)

-How is the culture of our home?  Have I become lax in regards to what I let my children watch on TV—or how long I let them watch? (Yes.)   Have I become lax with our computer rules? 

-What is the character of our home?  Is there peace in our home? 

-What is working/not working for us school-wise?  This is a good time of year to revisit your curriculum and make changes as necessary.

-Is my home conducive to learning?  Are art supplies easily at hand?  Are there lots of different types of books available for my children to choose from freely?  Is my “school area” organized and ready to go?  (In other words, is our home an enriching environment?)

-Am I providing enough creative play/outside play time for my children?

-Am I planning time for the “fun stuff”–and getting it done?  (Not nearly enough!)

     And, of course, most importantly, I ask myself about the 4R’s:

 -Relationships:  How are our family’s relationships with God going?  What is our spiritual temperature?  Are we sick, or healthy?   Are we, as a family and as individuals, growing in the Lord?  What do we need to change?  Are we putting off the “old man”, and becoming new creatures? 

     Am I taking the time I need to grow relationships within our family?  Am I teaching/helping my children grow their relationships with others in the family?  Am I making time to play with my children? Do we laugh together, play games together, etc (do we take time for relationship builders?) 

     Do I provide each child with enough cuddle time?  What about hugs/affectionate touch throughout the day (ruffling the hair, rubbing the shoulders, etc) to communicate my love to them?  

    Here is a Spiritual Growth Assessment from Lifeway that might be helpful to you.   

-Routines:  How are our routines working?  Do we need to make any changes, or simply work on being more consistent?  How well am I managing my time?  Am I teaching my children to manage theirs?

 –Readiness:  What are we doing too much of/not enough of?  Are there subjects/areas where we are falling short—areas where the curriculum needs to be beefed up?  (Am I providing the learning activities/opportunities that my children are ready for?)

     Alternately, am I trying to do too much?  Am I pushing my children too hard?  Am I frustrating myself and my children with inappropriate expectations?  Remember that with young children, it is important to wait for signs of ability, interest, and spontaneous learning before trying to instruct our children in academic subjects.  If you have a preschooler, remind yourself that you don’t have to work your child to death getting him “ready for Kindergarten.”  Instead, you can make your homeschool ready for your Kindergartener. 

      If you have a Kindergartener, give him a relaxed, traditional Kindergarten experience and ease into seatwork/the 3R’s only as they are ready (and never forget how much they learn through real life, hands-on experiences, conversation, and through being read to!)

-Reading aloud:  Am I spending enough time reading aloud to my children—no matter their age?  We need to continue building up our read aloud time.  One goal I have set for myself is getting my boys ready for bed earlier, so that we have more time to read before bedtime.  We are in the middle of two series:  My husband and I are taking turns reading Hank the Cowdog to the boys, and my daughter has just started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to them (this is in addition to the reading we do for homeschool.)

     All these questions boil down to three main questions:  1) Am I walking in the Spirit (and receiving His power to help me do what I know I should do),  2) Am I a balanced Mom?,  and  3) Am I making the main thing the main thing–in my personal life and my home life?

     I will prayerfully consider each of these questions over the next couple of days, and write out some goals in response to them.  What about you?  What questions have you been asking yourself?  Are you making any New Year resolutions this year?



© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.  Copyrighted materials may not be re-distributed or re-posted without express permission from the author.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschooling, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Curriculum Planning, 2010-2011 (part two)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 28, 2010

     Now we get to the really fun topics of study!  Here are our plans for units, art, and music:

Unit Study (History/Geography/Science): 

     This year we are going to alternate between history and science by topic, treating each as its own unit study. 

~History:  TruthQuest.  TruthQuest is a literature approach that includes suggested reading (living literature) to cover each time period, as well as text that ties each event/time period together.  I chose it because many other curriculums that use a literature approach don’t tie events together at all..they don’t even try.  We’ll use Homeschool in the Wood’s  Time Traveler’s series for lapbooking activities to go along with it, as well as Sonlight’s Timeline figures (we’ll be making a card file timeline—more on that later.)  


~Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day, supplemented with Knowledge Box Central’s lapbooks.  We’ll throw in all the non-fiction/”living” books we can find on each topic as well as any field trips or activities we can, turning each topic into a “chicken unit study” (a.k.a. a unit study for “chickens” who don’t want to step out and plan units without any textbooks/pre-made curriculum at all.  Instead, the textbooks become our “spine” or outline of study.)


~Music lessons:  Private music lessons (piano and violin, repectively.) 

~Listening:  We will play one CD of classical music for a month at a time, until the boys are familiar (or re-acquainted) with it; at the end of each month, I hope they will be able to identify the composer and some of the pieces just by listening.  My choices: 

     ~Paganini  (best of)

     ~Mozart’s String Quartets K387 and 421   (my boys already enjoy these)

    ~Mozart’s Requiem 

    ~Handel’s Messiah  (Think: Hallelujah Chorus.)  If you aren’t familiar with it, you’re in for a treat.  It’s a little “long hair” to those who are new to classical music, but give it a chance!  It tells the entire life of Christ through music. It’s moving and beautiful.  Give a listen to the samples of the choruses “And the Glory of the Lord”, “For Unto Us a Child is Born”, or—get ready to cry and listen to “Surely he Hath Borne Our Grief’s”, or “He Trusted in God that He Would Deliver Him”, which re-inacts the crowds who were mocking Jesus while He was on the cross.)

     ~Handel’s Water Music

     ~Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker

~The best of John Williams (movie themes—I think he is one of the greatest composers of our time.  He wrote the themes for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, E.T., Hook, etc, etc.  These are like beautiful mini-symphonies.)

~Glenn Miller (classic “big band” or “swing” music–love that brass!)

~The Imperials and the Cathedrals  (both in one month)–these are classic southern gospel albums that include quartet music, hymns, spirituals, and some pop.  Many of you young moms may consider this type of music to be “corny”, but be assured, the musical difficulty and quality is amazing (especially the vocals, which both groups are most famous for.)  If you want your children to learn to discern complex harmonies and be able to pick out the individual parts in music, these are indispensible.  Give a listen to some of the samples and see for yourself:  On the Imperials’ CD, sample “The First Day in Heaven”, “Sweet, Sweet, Spirit”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”; on the Cathedrals, give a listen to “This Old House” and “Wonderful Grace of Jesus”.  Just when you think their bass goes down as low as is humanly possible, he goes down an octave more!  (Don’t forget that you may be able to listen to more complete portions of the music I recomend on You Tube.)

~Singing:  Hymn of the month–We will choose one hymn that we will sing (during our worship time-along with other worship/”Sunday School” type songs) every school day for a month, OR until the boys have the chorus and at least one verse memorized.  I choose these according to what is going on in our lives spiritually.  Our first hymn will be “I Surrender All.”

      We will also sing during our unit time (we’ll listen to music of the time periods we study, learn the folk songs of the time, etc.) 

Art:  My goal this year is for the boys to do all of the art projects listed in my book—there are 56!  (These are open-ended projects appropriate for almost any age–preschool through early grade school.)  We will also be using Artistic Pursuits at least once a week. 

     Whew!  It does seem like a lot, but I’m hoping that the elements will work together well.  If I decide we need to tone it down a bit, we will.  I want to keep things simple, consistent, and FUN this year.

Live the 4R’s! 


© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Curriculum, Elementary School, Goals, Music | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Curriculum Planning, 2010-2011 (part one)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 27, 2010

     I can’t get over it…the 2010-2011 school year!  How can that be?!   Anyway, I’ve been working on our curriculum plans for the fall.  Next year will be my daughter’s senior year, and the boys will be in the second and fourth grades.  After this year, I’ll only have two children left to teach!  Unbelievable!

   I’m only going to post detailed plans for my littles.  If you want information about our high school curriculum, visit the “Our Curriculum” tab over the next few days to see what we’ll be using (I’ll post it soon.)

     The resources below are really just the tip of the iceberg for us…we’re going to use a plethora of “real” or “living” books this year!  Because this post is so long, I’m going to split it up into two installments.

Here are my choices for this fall:

Bible:  We are going to concentrate on character traits and learning to please God this year.  I decided to use a combination of resources including Character First (series one),  Pleasing God,  and the Word of God (I haven’t seen these, but the content looks like exactly what we need—we will do them orally).  We will also continue to read Vos’ Bible Story Book, and of course, the Word itself. 

      I have several goals for Bible memory work this year:  1) to continue memorizing Bible verses, including “cementing” the 23rd Psalm and our other previous work (goal: memorize at least 10 more verses and one longer section); 2) finish memorizing the Lord’s Prayer; 3) memorize the books of the Bible, and 4) begin sword drills.

Language arts:  My main goals for this year for both boys are to 1) wrap up all phonics (if possible; my second grader might need a little more time), 2) help the boys become fluent, expressive and confident readers; 3) help them continue to develop neat handwriting and handwriting speed; 4) do longer copywork, and 5) work on narration skills (oral composition) and composition.  For curriculum we will use:

~Phonics, spelling & handwriting: Sing, Spell, Read and Write (I will post about how I use this in a later post) and Explode the Code 

~Other language arts: Daily Grams (done orally–this is a good compromise between heavy duty grammar and delayed former grammar–for more on this issue, read THIS article);  portions of Queen’s Language Arts

 Math:  Our goals for math this year will focus on mastering the math facts (addition and subraction for my 2nd grader, multiplication for my 4th grader.)  I hope to add some fun computer games/card games etc to make this more fun.  The curriculums we will be using are:

Teaching Textbooks  (oldest)

Rod and Staff (youngest.)  Note: We add our own manipulatives, as needed.

     I’ll post our curriculum for unit studies (history, geography, and science), art, and music in my next post.

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Character Traits, Curriculum, Elementary School, Goals, Homeschool | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Not Enough Time: Really Being There for our Kids

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 23, 2010

     Classic Re-post:  This was first posted on my Homeschool Enrichment blog two years ago–and again when this blog was new.  I thought it was worth reviving.  My next post will be on our curriculum plans for next year.)

     As homeschooling moms, we devote virtually all our time and energy to our homes and families.  They are our very lives.  So if anyone dares to suggest that we aren’t doing enough, we naturally feel defensive or insulted.  I received such an “insult” recently, from my own seven year old.  My own son! (Whine, whine.)  He said (speaking for himself and his little brother,)  “You don’t spend enough time with us.”  

     My initial response: “WHAT?!  Not enough time with you?  What do you mean?  I’m with you everyday, all day.  I spend LOTS of time with you.  I take care of you, cook for you, read to you, do school with you…”  

     “That’s just it, Mommy,”  he answered.  We spend TOO much time doing school.  We want to do other things with you.” 

     “Other things?”  I probed.  “What kinds of other things?” 

     “Oh, you know…FUN things.  Things like playing outside with us, playing more games with us, doing more art, teaching us to cook…FUN STUFF!” 

     At first I was cross about this.  How could he say I don’t spend enough time with them?  Haven’t I devoted my whole life to these kids?! (More whining.)  And as for school time…we only spend around two hours a day.  How could that be too much? 

     Then I started thinking:  He’s just a little boy. He wants a relationship with me; that’s a good thing!  He needs me to be there for him not only physically, but emotionally.  Why can’t I put more effort into our relationship?  Why can’t I spend some time doing the “fun stuff”? 

     I realized that lots of times, if I was honest with myself, I would have to admit that while I am at home physically, I am not there emotionally.  Haven’t you all done this too?  Emotionally, you’re somewhere else.  Your mind is not with your children at all.  When they talk to you, you aren’t paying attention, but you mumble “uh-huh” anyway without really listening.  You are too busy doing housework, watching the news, cooking dinner, or even planning the next day’s school work to listen.  Any “conversations” are very one-sided. 

     Our children need more than that.  They need us to be fully engaged with them all the time.  They need us to put an effort into our relationship.  They need us to take time to do the fun stuff.  The fun stuff builds relationships and happy memories. 

     That is why I have decided to put some extra effort into my relationship with my kids.  Not because our relationships are bad, but because I want to see if they could be better. 

     Here are the things I have decided to do.   I challenge you to do them, too: 

     I am going to be more conscious of where my attention really is, making sure I am with my children both emotionally and physically.  I will take the time to have meaningful conversations with them, even if the conversation is just about their latest “Lego” creation.  They need to know I care.

     I’m going to make school more fun.  We will play more games, do more art, do some cooking and other hands-on activities.  I know that these are important parts of learning for young children, but I’ve let life get in the way of them recently.  No more.

     Finally, we are going to do “Christmas in July”.  Why should all the major fun and messy projects be saved till Christmas, when we are too busy to enjoy them?  This year, we are going to take time this month to do some of the projects I’ve been putting off.  I’m going to spread the fun around.  We’re going to paint, and bake, and make presents.   

     Let’s get out there and play, create, and converse with our children.  Let’s build relationships and happy memories.  Want to join me? 

  -Notes to my “remember mind”:  Make the main thing the main thing.  Be there emotionally.  Build relationships.  Stop whining before it spreads to the kids.

– Notes to my “Un-remember mind::  Forget the guilt over past projects that were left undone, and move on to the next thing.

© 2008, 2009, 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Challenge to Parents, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Life, Goals, Homepreschool, Relationships | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Josh’s Remember Mind (Remembering What’s Important; Notebooking)

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on July 18, 2010

      NOTE:  This was originally posted two years ago on my old blog, which was a part of  Homeschool Enrichment Magazine’s website during the time I was their “Early Learning Columnist.”  I thought it was worth reviving…with some changes.

     My seven year old son Joshua has a very unique mind.  He calls it his “remember mind”.   He says that when he really wants to remember something, he puts it in his remember mind.   Once it is there, he will never forget it.  He also has a “un-remember mind”–sort of like a big garbage bin where he permanently dumps things he doesn’t need to remember (or doesn’t want to). 

     If only his “remember mind’ was for real, and not just a figment of his over-active imagination.  If only we could have remember minds, too!   But we can’t even seem to remember the things that are most important to us–such as why we chose to homeschool, what the most important parts of our home life and homeschool truly are, and how greatly the Lord has blessed us.  Day to day life crowds out so many things we should bear in mind everyday—every hour.

     Having a “un-remember mind” would be just as helpful.  By utilizing our “UN-remember” minds, we could live a more joyous life.  We could forget to worry about our constant doubts and questions such as “will our children have gaps?” or “am I doing enough?” or “how can I possibly get it all done?”  Instead, we could concentrate on the here and now—just doing the next thing that needs to be done, and keeping the main thing the main thing. (Forgetting our failures? I suppose that would be too much to ask for…after all, we learn so much through those difficult experiences.) 

     Even though I’ve been a Christian since early childhood, married for 24 years, a mom for twenty years, and a homeschooling mom for 14 years, I still have been unable to train my mind to work like a “remember mind” should.  I often forget the most important things, and worry too much about the things I should forget about.  You’d think I’d have home life and homeschooling down pat by now, but I don’t.  I need a remember mind…and a “un-remember mind”…and I need them fast!

Notes to Help with Your “Remember Mind”:  

     There are things we can do to develop our “remember minds”.  It’s a good idea to start a special notebook (or two) to act as our “remember minds” (Cindy Rushton calls hers a “brain in a binder.”)  Here are some ideas for your notebooks, taken from mine: 

*Write down the reasons you have chosen to homeschool. That way, when you have a difficult day (or week, or month), you can look back on your reasons and be encouraged.

*Write down some short and long term goals for your family. Start with spiritual and character goals. That way, when you get discouraged, you can review your goals.  Usually you’ll find that you are meeting your most important goals.

*Make your own Bible notebook.  I use mine to record important sermon notes, notes from Bible studies, Bible verses that are special to me, encouraging quotes and sayings, and so on.  You can make one for your children, too (ages 9+).

*Make your own prayer notebook.  In it, record who you are praying for, when you started praying for them, and answers received.

*Make a household notebook.  Write down your housekeeping routines, important phone numbers, menu plans, etc.  To get you started, investigate flylady.net.  You can find her notebook suggestions HERE (she calls hers a “control journal.”) You can also find great pages for your control journal/school planning journal at Donna Young’s site.

Wonderful links for journaling/notebooking for moms:

Setting up your Bible journal, from a Holy Experience

Journaling as a spiritual discipline, also from A Holy Experience

 Bible notebooks for children:

Young children can include coloring pages and Bible copywork; older children can use their notebooks very much as adults would.

Great ideas from Squidoo 

Bible Scribe— (to purchase); kids draw and write on these pre-made Bible notebook pages  

More Notebooking pages to buy (or just glean ideas from)

Calvary Bible Coloring pages:  A page to color for every major story in the Bible

Ignite the Fire:  Lists single sentence summaries or titles for each book of the Bible—awesome for children and adults.

For the Inspired Mom:  Tons of links and ideas for making your own “brain in a binder” that will help you organize your homeschool, your home, your goals, and your life. 

    Use these tools to help you make the main thing the main thing!


 © 2008, 2009, 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Encouragement, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Record Keeping for Homeschoolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 27, 2010

 It is summertime, and summertime for homeschoolers means planning your next year’s curriculum and record keeping methods.  I’ve tried using everything imaginable for keeping records over the years:  Expensive computer programs, generic teacher plan-books, plan books designed especially for homeschoolers, various types of homemade forms (hand-made or computer-made and kept in binders), and journaling in spiral-bound notebooks.

      Over the years I’ve come to realize several things about myself:  

1.) I hate those “empty boxes.”  Whenever I’ve used a “teacher plan book”, I would have empty boxes!  For one thing, as children get older, there are certain subjects that are only done two or three times a week…thus, empty boxes (even if they are planned for.)  It makes the lesson sheet look “incomplete” to me.     See those horrid empty spaces?!  I put lines through them to show that we weren’t supposed to do that subject that day.  Even though we’d done plenty that week (probably too much–) those empty spaces made me feel like a failure.   

     2.)  I hate making lesson plans before the fact.  A couple of times I made the mistake of spending hours laying out what we should do each day…how far to read and what to read by date….invaritably life interfered.   Life doesn’t always go as planned!  One day there might be tomato hornworms  on my plants, so we’d skip our planned science lesson in favor of a real-life lesson.  Another day, someone is sick—and now my dates or days are off.  The next week, a field trip I didn’t plan for would be offered by our support group.  Often, in spite of my careful planning, I’d find a better book to use or a better supplement to add, etc.  Sometimes  I’d have a child who got fired up about school and did 5 pages of math in one day.    (Above:  another very old lesson plan sheet, made with a Sharpie Pen and photocopied.  I sure used way more textbooks then than I do now, that’s for sure!   Below is another form, computer generated; one page=one day.)  


     Finally, after years and years  of trial and error, I’m back to the simplest method there is:  Journaling, after the fact.  All I do is write down what we did each day, in a journal.  

        The advantages:  Less feeling of failure; the ability to be flexible; more space to get descriptive, if you so desire (space to write down the cute things your kids did/said, etc).  All this equals less stress and easier use for me. 

      Don’t get me wrong—writing things down after the fact doesn’t mean I don’t plan ahead.  Believe me, I do!  In fact, I spend hours every summer doing so.  Most subjects are easy to plan.  Take math, for instance…how much planning do you need?  Everyday we do the next lesson.  How easy is that?  If the children need extra practice, we add games or hands-on activities to the lesson.  Sometimes we nix the formal lesson altogether in favor of games and drills for a while. 

     Unit studies/literature approaches (history, science, geography, etc) take a little more planning time.  At the very least, I like to start the year with my list of topics (including approximately how much time I’ll spend on each), list of books we’ll read, movies and activities I plan to use, and so on.  

     Using Your Planner:  You could use a standard binder so that you can add pages and work samples, or a spiral bound notebook (depending on how much writing you want to do).  To continue my simplicity theme this year, each double-sided page in my journal will include one week’s work.  I’ll just write down my subject (math, for instance), and then record the lessons done like this:  p. 12-13/p.14-15/p.16-18/p.19 +Sum Swamp game/Casino card game and facts drill.   My boys do everything together except for math and phonics/reading; for those subjects, they will each have a row to record their work, preceded by their initial, like this:

LA (Language arts)  J:  SSRW (Sing, Spell, Read and Write) step 19, song plus 5 words per day; EC (Explode the Code) p. 17-18/19-21/22-23/23-34/35-36; practiced reading in book 9….then the same for my other son.

           Here’s the planner we’re going to use (I found it at Target for under $10 dollars.)  It’s just a simple spiral planner that includes a calendar and “journal” like pages.  I added my own stick-on tabs for ease of use.  I made tabs for Weeks 1-20, weeks 21-40; a tab to record the books we’ve read, and so on (I write down the title, author, date completed, and number of pages for each book).  Here is what the planner looks like with the tabs added:   

     I just love stick-on tabs, don’t you?  I use them for everything!   I’ll use the calendar for attendance and to write down field trips, nature walks, piano lessons, co-op days, and other events. 

      To make recording your work easier, it’s a good idea to come up with some abbreviations or codes, like I did above.  You can number your subjects (1 is Bible, 2 is math), or use lettering (B is Bible, M is math, LA is language arts, which includes handwriting {HW}, spelling {SP}, phonics {PH} etc the early years), and unit study =U.  

     So that I can remember my codes and my yearly plan, I write them down on the first page of my planner.  Other suggestions/ideas: 

-Before you decide what type of planner to use, find out what records your state requires.  You can find out about your state laws by finding your state’s support group  at www.hslda.org .  Even if your state doesn’t require record keeping, it’s still a good idea to keep records for many reasons:  You can prove what you’ve completed if there is ever any type of legal challenge; you can look up what you did with your oldest children when planning for your youngest; you’ll have a book of memories to cherish. 

-Even if you use a spiral bound journal/notebook of some kind, be sure to put work samples in a separate binder or keep them in a file, organized by child, grade, and year.

-Put your records in a binder:  You can make your own pages like the ones above, use pre-made pages (links below) or journal.  Use tabs to divide your pages…buy monthy tabs, or numbered tabs for each month.  When you use a binder, you can add work samples every month, too.  We chose 2-4 pages per subject per month to save, so that we can show our progress.  Before you choose what to keep, however, be sure to check and see what your state requires.  Additionally, you should know that if your children are enrolled in an “umbrella” school/private school satellite program, they may have additional record keeping requirements.

-Add a vocabulary section to your binder, or have a separate composition book or spiral notebook for the vocabulary you’ve learned.  Besides the words learned during school time, we add any words my boys ask me about anytime–and review them regularly.

-Add a goals section, books read section, and curriculum section for each child.  Write down the curriculum/books etc that you use with each child, and be sure to write down all the books you read to your children as well as all the books your children read independently, even if they are not school related.

-Write down anything educational your children do:  Did you watch Jack Hannah’s Animal Adventures show on television?  Write that down under science. Teach your kids how to do a load of laundry?  That’s life skills.  Did you bake bread together?  That’s home ec.  Did your kids staple pages of paper together to make a book?  That’s art and language arts.  Did you watch birds outside, and name them?  That’s science and/or nature.  Did your children play outside?  That’s PE.  You’ll be surprised how many educational activities your children do in a day when you start to write them down.

-Be consistent:  Record what you do everyday.  There’s nothing harder than re-creating your lessons from a week or month ago.

-Other record keeping ideas: We keep lots of other binders for course- planning, ideas/articles to keep, master forms, and so on.  My favorite is the “red alert” binder (I don’t know where I heard this idea, but I just love it.)  We have only ONE red binder.  Since it is red, it is always easy to find.  The ONLY records I keep in it are the records that state officials could ask to see (BTW, we’ve homeschooled for 17 years now, and have never had any problems.)  Since we live in Cali, we keep our affidavit forms (alternately, proof of enrollment in a Private school satellite Program) and current attendance sheets in the binder–that’s it.  That’s all CPS or the school district could ask to see in our state.  (I transfer the attendance from my journal to the binder once a week.)

     For additional resources see Donna Young’s site or Oklahoma’s Homeschool Site  for free printables.  Also check out these articles:

Easy Record Keeping

21 Sites Offering free Homeschool Planning and Organizing Printable Forms

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Elementary School, Getting Started, Goals, Record Keeping | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

“I Can” Homeschool and Chore Chart

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 22, 2010

   One of Charlotte Mason’s mottos for children was, “I can, I ought, I will”, so I suppose it’s only appropriate that our family’s way of rewarding our children for their daily routine, chores, and anything “well done” is called “I-Cans”.  

    I first got this inspiration from a friend who showed us her I-Cans.    Over the years I’ve tweaked the system to meet the needs of our family. 

   Below is a picture of our I-cans (my first pictures on the blog–I’m so excited!)   I made the I-Cans by copying and pasting the phrase “I Can” over and over on a sheet of paper, and then having my son draw and add the “eye” picture (on Photoshop.)  Next I drew circles around them.  My I-Cans are between the size of a quarter and half dollar, so that they fit inside our pocket chart perfectly.  Once I had a page of I-Cans, I went to a copy center and had several sheets copied onto heavy paper, and then cut them out.  I made our I- Cans in a different color for each boy.  You could also make special colors to indicate special rewards. (Another option:  Use tickets.  You can find tickets–the kind they use at raffles–at school supply stores in several different colors.)

      We use our I-Cans in two different ways; in our chart, and on a pin.  Notice the holes punched in the I-Cans?  This is to accomodate the pins.  (I used a tiny hole punch.)  We put the I-Cans onto baby diaper pins and pin them to the children’s shirts, where they become a constant reminder of how the children are behaving that day (or not.) 

     Each child starts the day with ten I-Can’s.  Everytime they are naughty, they have to give up an I Can (rule: give it up nicely or lose another for bad attitude.)  Every time I catch them being good or doing something extra nice, I reward them with an I-Can.  At the end of the day, we count and see what they have left.  If they have more than five left, they get another  I-Can and/or some small instant reward. 

     Every night before bed we count that day’s I-Cans and “bank” them (save them in the bank).   Our bank is inside the door of our kitchen pantry, and our chore chart is on the outside, secured with Command Adhesive strips. 

     Friday is Banking Day.  Fridays are the only days that the children are allowed to count all their I-Cans.  Each week, the boys have a choice:  Do I trade in my I-Cans for a short-term reward? (This would be small treats like choosing a movie to watch at home, a small toy like a Matchbox car or bouncy ball, sidewalk chalk, or a candy bar–we love the dollar section at Target for our prizes.)  Do I save up my I-Cans for a better reward (a trip to the ice cream shop, going to an appropriate movie at the theatre, etc), or do I save for a month or more for something I really want?  (The best rewards take a long time to earn.)  We might buy a Lego set that they really want and place it on the fireplace mantel for them to drool over.  We label it with the number of I-Can’s they’ll need to earn it.  A set worth $25 might “cost” the boys 300-400 I-Cans.  Another option is to assign a dollar amount for each I-Can (ten cents each, for instance), but this can get too expensive!

         I use a pocket chart from the school supply store to make our chart.  You can order one like mine HERE, but there are many different chart options available.  HERE is another one from Amazon (chores only); HERE are some different ideas for using charts and some FREE printable charts. 

      My chart has three rows for each boy; each of the rows is highlighted with his I-Can colors.  The first row lays out our morning routine; the second row our school day, and the third row highlights behavior.  That leaves one extra row.  We call this row weekly “priviledge.”  I made the labels on our chart with my P-Touch.  Take a look:

Priviledge close up chart

   To the left is a close-up of   the “priviledge” row.  Each week one of the boys is on “priveledge.”  Whoever is on priviledge (we call it “Josh’s week” or “Ben’s week”) gets to do certain special things (priviledges), but in exchage for the priviledge, extra chores are assigned.  “Priviledge” solves a lot of problems for me.  Whose turn is it to get the mail?  Whose turn is it to choose a movie if they can’t agree?  Who gets to choose their seat in the car?  Who gets to sit on my left side (don’t ask why–I have no idea why they’d fight over this) during story time?   Who gets to pick the story at bedtime (if I’m offering a choice),  and who gets to choose the story tape to listen to at bedtime?  The answer is always on the chart.  

      To make the marker so that the boys can see their names, I glued two “I-can’s” –one for each boy, in his colors–back-to-back onto a small piece of cardboard (about two inches high) and then laminated it. 

      The extra chores in exchange for for “priviledge” are:  Go-fer (bring things to mom/run inside and grab the cell phone, etc), pick up dog poop (once a day), laundry helper (tote and carry, help fold or put away as needed), check animals daily (food/water), and take the garbage/garbage cans out (as needed), wipe the outside of the toilet (daily.)  Remember, my boys are 9 and 7.

     Every morning we do our first row (with one exception these are “before school” chores.)  As the boys finish each chore, they earn an I-Can.  Our morning chores are (from top to bottom):

Breakfast, vitiamins; one of the boys has “inhaler” on his chart (for asthma), and the other has “fingernails” (he is a nail biter, so we inspect his fingernails, and paint them with something like “Thum“.)  They must eat what they are offered at breakfast and cheerfully take their inhaler or get their fingernails painted to earn an I-Can.

-The next pocket is dress, (get dressed appropriately for the day), laundry (pick up any clothes on the floor and put jammies away), and bed (straighten.)

-The next pocket is teeth (brush), face (wash) and hair (comb.)

-The next pockets say:  Josh-unload dishwasher; Ben-wipe bathroom sinks/counters and “bathroom check” (look for anything left on the floor, check hand-towels and toilet paper.)

-The final chore box isn’t entirely done before school.  It says: Josh-lunch table (clear food away and wipe table) and garbage out (kitchen); Ben-breakfast table, floor under table and floor patrol (look around in the family room for toys left out, and pick them up.)  Wiping the table without making a worse mess is a skill we are still working on.

-The school row is the same for each boy.  Right now it is slighly out of order, but we use it as-is.  The pockets are (from top to bottom): Bible, memory (memory verse/recitation practice), hymn; unit, game; math; reading, copywork; speech (speech therapy practice) and PE/play (outside time.)  I didn’t add rewards for art, music, etc, since the boys love to do them so much.

-The final row is our behavior row, and it too is the same for each boy.   In that row we have: Obey, Honor; Cheerful, Helper, Share; Worker, Picked up; Good Eater.

     Our I-Can Rules: 

-Each chore or school subject completed cheerfully and well earns an I-Can. 

-At the end of the day, we go over the behavior chart and add I-Can’s for good behavior.  Alternate idea:  Go over the behavior portion of the chart at noontime, too. 

-Once I-Cans are in the chart or in the bank, they cannot be taken away; these have been earned.  Only the I-Can’s pinned to their shirt can be taken away for bad behavior.

-At the end of each day, we put the I-Cans earned for that day in the bank. 

-Banking day is the only day the boys can count their I-Cans and retrieve their prizes.

Rules for pins:

-When you “lose” an I-Can from your pin, you must hand it over cheerfully or you will lose another one for bad attitude.

–No asking or hinting for I-Cans.  Mom can’t see everything; sometimes doing good is its own reward.

-You can tell Mom when your brother deserves and I-Can (when he does something extra nice for you); but you may NOT tell (tattle) on your brother, saying he deserves to have one taken away.  Mom decides this.

-Be careful with your I-Cans:  No bending them or getting them wet.

-Five or more I-Can’s left on the pin at the end of the day earns an extra I-Can and/OR a small treat (right away.)

-You may not remove your I-Can’s from your shirt after Mom pins them on you, or you lose them all.

     It sounds complicated, but once you get going on it, a chart like this works really well.  Just make sure your children know all the I-Can rules before you begin enforcing them.  You should also be sure that your children understand your house rules, so that they understand which behaviors might result in losing an I-Can.

     Final tips:  Teach one new chore at a time.  Teach it in the four step process:  Show them how to do it, help them do it, watch them do it, inspect the job they’ve done.  Inspection is extremely important!

-Remember that the goal is to develop a routine that becomes a habit.   Working cheerfully, properly, and well should also become a habit (eventually!)

-Make sure your chores are developmentally appropriate.  Preschoolers can do chores like straightening beds, feeding pets (dry food), sorting laundry, tote and carry, picking up after themselves, wiping counters (if you ring out the rag), vaccuming, sweeping, dusting, and so on.  For ideas about teaching your children to work, check out the books below.

Life Skills for Kids by Christine Field

401 Ways to Get Your Kids to Work at Home

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Character Traits, Discipline, Family Rules, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Parenting | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Helpful Advice for Homeschooling Elementary School-Aged Children

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on June 12, 2010

Simplify the Curriculum, or “Colette’s List of 10 Things  (with my own comments added):

1).  Keep everything as simple as you can. Jesus wrote with a stick in the dirt, and He was the greatest teacher that ever lived. He used no curriculum or flannel graphs or lesson plans. Homeschooling can be made far more complicated than it should be. A simpler approach is much more effective.

     Why do we make things so difficult for ourselves?  Why do we feel we need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum, “educational toys”, manipulatives, etc to homeschool successfully?  Why do we glue ourselves to one single method or curriculum? 

      Remember, there is no perfect curriculum.  There is no special toy/manipulative or magical homeschooling method that will teach your children and solve all your problems.  The truth is, we can make almost anything “work” as curriculum if we need to–in fact, before buying curriculum, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself if it is really necessary at all.  Many topics can be taught naturally using real books and discussion. 

     The key to homeschool success is relationship–your relationship with your children; the time you spend working with them one-on-one; your ability to individualize your methods and curiculum; the time you spend reading aloud and then discussing what you’ve read.  Relationship is more important than curriculum (or method.)

2).  Stick to the 3 R’s. They form the foundation of life-long learning in every field because they are the tools of study. There will be no need to formalize any other subject if the children are doing their best in these 3, because people who are well grounded in reading, writing and math will approach other subjects boldly, independently and confidently.

     I have to add Bible to that…I believe our most important subjects are Bible/Christian Character, math, and language arts.  We should concentrate most of our time on these.  Be sure to go for mastery, not just “exposure” in these subjects.  I have a good friend who says, “If your child knows and loves the Lord, loves to learn, can read and write well, knows basic math, and knows how to do research –then what else does he need?”   (Thanks, Peggy!)

     Do you worry about “gaps”?!  Things your children will miss?  All children have “gaps”.  You have them, too.  There is simply too much to learn; no one can master it all.  But if you love to learn and if you know how to do research, you will want to fill those gaps when they come up–and you’ll know how to do so.  You will be a lifelong learner.

     Don’t get me wrong; I do want my children to know science, history, geography, etc.  We do teach those subjects in our homeschool.  I also believe that art and music are important.  But sometimes we overlook the fact that our children learn lots from real life, being read to and through independent reading.  We make things harder than they need to be.  If your children haven’t mastered the basics yet, try concentrating on mastering them  for awhile.  For your other subjects, read aloud to your children, and discuss what you’ve read.  Also encourage your children to explore their own interests during their free time. 

3).  Let the children teach themselves as much as they are able to. This teaches them responsibility, intellectual independence, and builds confidence. It’s also better for the parent/child relationship because you can focus on parenting instead of playing schoolteacher.

     I agree, and yet disagree with this one.  I make it a rule not to do anything for my children that they can do for themselves; I encourage them to learn how to work “independently”  in their chores and their schoolwork (more and more as they grow older.)   But that doesn’t mean I expect to totally give up my role as “teacher-mom”  and turn all learning over to my children.  I think there has to be a balance of independent work and facitiated learning/discusion. 

      Sometimes in our haste to make things easier for ourselves, we turn too much over to our children too soon.  To make the most of our homeschool, we need to maintain our involvement in our children’s school work.  At the least, we should introduce new concepts and discuss them; introduce new assignments, communicating to our children exactly what is expected of them; supervise/check in on our children as they work; read aloud/discuss their learning; ask them to talk to you about what they’ve learned (or narrate–either verbally or through a report), and finally, inspect (check) their work immediately upon it’s completion.  If we overlook these things, we miss out on the best parts of homeschooling and in my opinion, let our children down. 

     I must admit, I didn’t do the best job with this for my older set of children.  I was so busy with my little ones that I entrusted them with too much independence too soon.  I didn’t discern their true needs.  Be careful to find a balance in your homeschool, so that you don’t repeat my mistakes.  (Note:  Plan to sit right with your children while they are doing their assignments for the first few years.  Maturity comes before independence.)

4).  Use the most direct method available. For reading, read. For writing, write, for math, do it, and for Bible, read it. Don’t fall for catchy curriculums or methods that are really just something else for you and your child to learn. 

     See my post, “Homeschooling Early Elementary…Keep it Simple”, HERE.  

5).  Don’t worry about your child’s age or grade. Just let him do the best he can each day. Children grow intellectually like they do physically: in spurts. Although we may have an audience of skeptical relatives, homeschooling is not a circus, and we refuse to train our children to do tricks for people.

     Our goal should be to find out where our children are now, and then move them forward from there.  Slow and steady wins the race!  We tend to expect far too much of our younger children, and not nearly enough of our older children.  Instead, duing the early elementary years, back off a bit and wait for readiness.  Children in Sweeden and Switzerland don’t even start school until they are 7, and yet they outscore American children on standardized tests.  (See my tab, “Readiness”, and my archived posts on readiness as well.)

 6).  Minimize distractions in the home. Watch for excessiveness in entertainments, snacking, outings, phone conversations and the like. These sorts of things can easily get out of hand and compete with the effectiveness of a homeschool and sap the family of time and energy.

     Such distractions also get in the way of our children’s time to play,  explore their hobbies/interests, and so on.  These are vitally important to children of all ages.  Distractions eat up our own time as well; especially the time we could be spend reading the Bible,  playing games with our children, and giving them unrushed, real life experiences (cooking, nature walks, art, etc) they need.

7).  Seek quality over quantity. A few tapes of great music, a small case of carefully chosen books, a few special play mates, and an occasional outing is better than a large, but poor quality collection.

     Often we spend hundreds of dollars on these things–with the best of intentions–only to have them gathering dust on a shelf.  Start with a few of the best, and use them.  Once your children become familiar with the books and CD’s you have, you can add more.  This saves you from stress and guilt…and it saves money, too.  Sometimes I think we give ourselves so many options that we don’t know what to do; we’re like toddlers overwhelmed by a mountain of toys.  Less really can be “more.”  Believe me about this–I’ve learned it the hard way.

8).  If you must document your school activities, do it after the fact. This way you will not make promises you cannot keep. If you are required to make lesson plans, be as vague as permissible. Don’t let transcripts, diplomas, records and tests determine your academic plans. Focus on learning and the rest will follow.

     I don’t know about you, but I hate those “teacher plan” books…I dispise those empty boxes (even if I planned my day that way–i.e. alternating subjects.)  This year we’re using a simple, journal-type planner.  I added my own tabs to divide up the weeks, as well as tabs for writing down the books we read, resources we’re using, etc.

9).  Put the needs of your youngest, most vulnerable children first. If an older child gets a little behind in school, I’m sure you can forgive yourself. But if something happened to the toddler while you were busy homeschooling, I don’t think you would be able to say the same.

     Once we’ve given our youngest what they need, they will be content to let us work with our older children.  See my tab on “Routine”, and my article, “Keeping Little Ones Busy.”

10).  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and don’t neglect to seek him early…giving him the first fruits of your day and teach your children to do the same. I know that you are tired and that there aren’t enough hours in your day, but we serve a God who can make the sun stand still.

     Examine yourself:  Do you “make the main thing (JESUS!) the main thing”  in your personal life/homeschool/family life?  Do you spend time in the Word everyday?   Does your life reflect your most important goals?  Do you live out your faith?  Does your life rotate around GOD, or your family/homeschool?  (OUCH.)   I know I have a long way to go regarding these matters…I’ve been very convicted lately about truly living out my most important goals.  

     For more about “the main thing”, see my post, “Challenge To Christian Parents.” 

     Live the 4R’s!   ~~Susan

     Info about this post:  Simplifying,”   according to my information, this was orginally posted on the RC4JC Yahoo group and is used with permission:  “Anyone can use Colette’s list of 10 things; she’d like it if they credit the e-group or her by name, but it’s otherwise free for use without any conditions.”  (If this information is incorrect, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.  I did my best to find the orginal source.)

Colette is one of the moderators of the Robinson Curriculum email group:
Robinson Users for Christ

Simplify the Curriculum © Colette Longo, used with permission.  Other portions of this post: © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Elementary School, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homeschool, Homeschooling, Methods, Readiness, Reading Aloud, Relationships, The 4 R's, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Are You Homepreschooling for the Wrong Reasons?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on May 28, 2010

          The more I talk to parents of young children, or read their blogs, the more I see that many of them are, in my opinion, homepreschooling them for the wrong reasons:

      *To keep the kids busy and “out of my hair”:  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard moms say that the only reason they homepreschool their little ones is to keep them busy and “out of my hair” so that they can have some time to themselves, or some time to teach their older children.  Homepreschool is not about what is best or easiest for us; it is about giving our preschoolers what they need to optimize their growth and development.  If you are homepreschooling only to “keep them busy”, examine your motives carefully and ask yourself if you are really giving your preschoolers what they really need and deserve.  Additionally, remember that our little ones are perceptive of our attitudes.  They will know if we teach them half-heartedly, and if we view them to be a burden or interruption instead of a joy. 

      *To get them “ahead” academically:  Whether it is their own pride, a desire to impress others, a desire to “prove” themselves to others, or simply because they don’t know what else to do, many parents push their preschoolers into early academics.  Remember that no study has shown any lasting advantage to early academics, but many have found great risks (see the tab, “Readiness”, the tab, “Early Academics?!” as well as the archives for the topic   “Readiness” for more information.)    

      *Because you love to teach, and can’t wait to start “officially” homeschooling:  Some parents are so excited about homeschooling (a good thing!) that they can’t seem to wait until their children are school age to begin formal, academic lessons (a bad thing!).  Some parents start their preschoolers in a “Kindergarten” curriculum at the tender age of three or four.  If you really love to teach, and want to settle your children into a learning routine, by all means do so—but in a developmentally appropriate way!  Remember that preschoolers do not learn in the same ways that older children do.  Preschoolers need hands-on/real life experiences with things they can touch, see, and explore. Preschoolers need time to reinforce their learning through play.  Preschoolers need to be read to, talked to and sung to; they need to get dirty and make messy art projects.  Preschoolers need much more repetition than older children do; in fact, young children thrive on repetition, while older children often “balk” at it.  Preschoolers need time just to be—time to be little kids, and time to mature.  (See the tabs, “Preschool Goals” and the “4R’s”.)

       I’d like to encourage each and every one of you to write down your reasons for homepreschooling and/or   homeschooling.  This will help you examine your true motives.  It will also be a great blessing to you on those days when you feel as though you want to give up (believe me, we all have those days…this is “the toughest job you’ll ever love.”)  Re-reading the reasons you started homepreschooling/homeschooling in the first place will help you “re-set” you mind and provide you with the encouragement you need to keep going (as will a short break and some long prayers!).  For some ideas to get you started listing your reasons, re-read the tab, “What is Homepreschool?”, and check out the links on making the decision to homeschool under the tab, “Important Links.”  Next, decide which reasons are the most important to you (I hope they are spiritual reasons.)   Finally, assess yourself:   Does your homepreschool really, consistently reflect those reasons?  Are you “making the main thing the main thing?” 

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Encouragement, Getting Started, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Family Rules For Preschoolers and Grade-Schoolers

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on April 18, 2010

        Does your family have clear rules about behavior?  Do your children know what the rules are?  Do they understand the consequences for disobedience?  (Are there consequences?)              

         Preschoolers are constantly learning about (and testing) the rules.  It’s hard for them to remember very many rules at first, so your rules should be simple–something along these lines:

1.  We love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts.  (This covers so much–lying, stealing, etc–God’s rules.  If your child has a tendancy towards a specific sin I’d list it separately, as I did below.)

2.  We obey Mommy and Daddy quickly and cheerfully.  We also obey other authorities in our lives (Grandma and Grandpa,  Sunday School teachers, etc.)   

3.  We treat others the way we want to be treated (the Golden Rule).

4.  We take care of our toys, and pick up cheerfully.

5.  We eat what is given to us without complaining.

6.  We don’t whine, complain, or “pitch fits.”

       The consequences you choose should matter to your children.   They shouldn’t be harsh, but they should be something they want to avoid.  Each family has to choose what works best for them…but whatever the consequences are, your children should be aware of them before the fact.  It’s not fair to punish a child for something that s/he doesn’t know is wrong.  When your preschoolers are still learning the rules you will probably have to give them “two strikes”; one time to remind them/tell them about the rules (a warning); repeat offenders earn the consequence.

      Recently I’ve re-vamped our family rules to reflect my children’s ages and the issues we’ve been trying to correct.  Remember that my youngest are now 7 and 9.  Now that my boys are getting older, we can add more rules and make them specific so that my boys don’t have any excuses.  I’ve been reading the rules to the boys almost everyday, and choosing one to discuss in greater detail.  This also gives us a chance to discuss the positive character traits we use when we follow our family rules.

House Rules About Behavior:  (Our adaptation of The Clarkson’s book, Our 24 Family Ways)

 1.  We love and obey the Lord Jesus Christ with all our hearts, remembering that this means choosing to put Him on the throne of our hearts (making Him the boss.)

 2.  We obey Mom, Dad and other authorities quickly and cheerfully (Pastor, piano teacher, coach, relatives, big sister) with a cheerful “Yes, Mom”, or “Yes, Sir,” etc.

 3.  We listen to correction and accept discipline with a submissive spirit.  We repent of our wrongs:  We are sorry; we ask forgiveness; we change our behavior.

 4.  When someone apologizes to us and asks for forgiveness, we forgive them.  We do not hold grudges or withhold our love; we do not return evil for evil.

 5.  We do not whine or argue.  We do not roll our eyes, fall or slouch down, sigh or complain.  This shows anger, disrespect and disobedience.  (Do all things w/o arguing and complaining…Phil. 2:14)

 6.  We accept NO as NO and drop the subject.

 7.  We choose to do what is right, no matter what other people do or say.

 8.  Our goal is to show the fruit of the spirit in all we say and do.  We choose to have good attitudes, living out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. 

 9.  We are considerate of others, using good manners.  We don’t talk with food in our mouths, burp, etc; and we don’t think those things are funny.  We are gracious to everyone, even if we don’t feel like it.

 10. We come the first time we are called.  We drop whatever we are doing and obey right away.

 11.  We tell the truth the first time we are asked.

 12.  We do not yell or otherwise show our anger towards others. We choose not to let anger control us.

 13.  We treat others with HONOR and RESPECT.  We listen carefully to others, stopping what we are doing and making eye contact.  We are CAREFUL not to hurt others in word or deed, treating others the way we want to be treated (Golden Rule.)  We do not bully, pester or annoy others.  (Others first, self last; give more, take less.)

 14.  We do not interrupt others, especially when they are on the phone, or when grown-ups are talking to other grown-ups.

 15. We listen to instruction respectfully, remembering that we do not know more than our elders (listen and learn.)  We are teachable, not proud.

 16.   The older protects the younger.  The older remembers his example to the younger.

 17.  We do not sneak or STEAL food.

 18.  We eat what we are given cheerfully, with a thankful heart.

 19.  We obey the schedule and chore chart; we DO NOT SHIRK.  (YOU WILL BE FOUND OUT.)    Be diligent with your schoolwork and your chores, working as unto the LORD. 

20.   If we don’t know what to do, we ask.

 21.  We understand that our actions have consequences.  When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequence.  Good behavior reaps rewards.  Naughty behavior reaps consequences. We don’t blame others for the consequences we deserve.   

 22.  We remember that God sees all and knows all—even our hearts.

 23.  When we are not at home, we obey the same rules we do when we are at home. 

 Rules Concerning Our Home and Possessions: 

1.  We take care of what we have, using it wisely and responsibly. 

2.  Play with one thing at a time. When you are finished playing with a toy, put it away BEFORE you get something new out. (Toys that “go together” are excluded.)

3.  We do not go into another person’s room without being invited. 

4.  We do not get things out without permission (from the t0y closet, art hutch, etc.)

5. If you get it out, put it away.  If you open it, close it.   If you turn it on, turn it off.  If you make a mess, clean it up. (If you need help, ask for it!)

6. We care for our possessions and our house carefully.  We close doors, drawers, etc carefully, and we don’t hit or bang the walls or furniture with our bodies or our toys.  We are not destructive.

7. We do not make unnecessary work for others.  We take initiative to clean up after ourselves, leaving each room we’ve entered looking better than it did before.  (A place for everything, and everything in its place.)

8. We do not HIDE our messes.

9. We do not touch or play with other people’s possessions unless we have permission first.  We do not borrow from others without permission.  We do not look through someone else’s drawers or closets without permission (we aren’t snoops.)

10. Put your laundry in the correct hamper right when you take it off; no socks or dirty clothes may be thrown on the floor. 

11. Hang up your wet towels, and re-use them at least 2-3x’s. 

12.  THINK about what you do (wipe your feet, keep dirty hands off things, etc); LOOK around carefully and learn to SEE your mess.   

13.  No toys are to be left outside at night. 

14.  Keep your shoes in your closet (not on the floor) and then you’ll always know where they are. 

15.  No papers, pencils, crayons, or garbage left on the table or floor. 

16.  Ten minute pick up at 11 AM and 4 PM.

 17.  Remember that if you mistreat your possessions or are irresponsible with them, mom and dad will not replace them.

18.   When we are not at home, we obey the same rules we do when we are at home.

       These are our rules!  I’d love it if you’d share yours.  ~Susan

        Our 24 Family Ways is a great devotional to use with older children (8+).

  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Character Traits, Discipline, Elementary School, Encouragement, Family Rules, Goals, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

How to Start Homeschooling in 10 Simple Steps

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 31, 2010

1.  Pray.  Pray about your decision, and ask the Lord to give you the wisdom and patience you will need.  Also ask Him to give you His vision for your homeschool.  What should your goals be?  What does He want you to teach your children this year—and how should you teach it? (See tab, “Homepreschool Goals” if you have a young child; your primary goals should be the same–just add mastering the basics–the  3 R’s.)  To solidify your decision, be sure to explore the links related to “Making the Decision to Homeschool” under the tab, “Important Links”. 

 2.  Write down your goals and the vision the Lord gives you, and then don’t be afraid to step out in faith and go for it!  This vision might have to do with your homeschooling lifestyle, character and Bible learning goals for your children, or academics…but whatever it is, trust the Lord’s inspiration and follow His leading. 

 3.  Research the legalities involved.  Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states; some states require little to nothing, others make you jump through a few hoops.  Go to Home School Legal Defense’s website, You Can Homeschool.  There you will find links to your state’s laws and support groups.  They will help you meet the requirements of the law in the simplest way possible.

          If you are pulling your children out of public school, HSLDA and your local support group can guide you step by step; be sure to contact them before  pulling your children out of public school.          

          Remember to check the compulsory age of attendance in your state.  In many states, Kindergarten isn’t mandatory.   You might not have to worry about the legalities at all until your children are 6 or even 7 years old (this varies from state to state.)

    4.  Join HSLDA; most private school satelite programs  require it.  HSLDA is an essential part of protecting our rights to homeschool.  They will also protect you from any legal problems you might encounter if you need to pull your children out of public school.  HSLDA monitors legislation in every state, as well as nationally.  Best of all, HSLDA can provide you with peace of mind. 

 5.  Contact your local Christian homeschool support group and join it now.  The best place to find your group is Home School Legal Defense’s website.  Click on your state to find the group closest to you.  You can also Google your city/state and the words, “Christian Homeschool Support Groups”, or your state’s name plus the words, “Considering Homeschooling groups,” “Exploring Homeschooling” or “Smoothing the Way Groups.” These groups offer mentors and/or  meetings to help you get started and help you during your first year of homeschooling.

        I can’t overemphasize the importance of a good, Christian support group!  Our group is like our church family; we love, support, and encourage each other.  Our group even serves each other in emergencies (when I was on bed rest during a pregnancy, our support group brought us meals!)  Your group has a wealth of love and support, as well as a network of helps and activities just waiting for you.  Don’t try to be a lone ranger; get involved and let them bless you.  You and your children need them, and they need you, too.

 6.  Find out where your child is in his/her learning now.  (This is vital because our goal should be to start where are children are now, and move them out from there.)  There are several ways to do this.  The easiest way is through home assessments.  Depending on your child’s age, assess the following:   Does your child know his phonics, including the “blends” like ch, ck, cl, cr, th, sp, sw, etc?  Is your child reading fluently and with expression?  Can she write a complete sentence?  (Does she know what a complete sentence is?)  Does your child know her math facts? And so on.  

        If you child is being pulled out of school, you might have tests or paperwork to look over or perhaps, if you believe it is wise, you could talk to your child’s former teacher.  (See Homepreschool and Beyond for more information.) 

7.  Determine your child’s learning style.  How does your child learn?  Through hearing it? Seeing it?  Experiencing it?  Writing it down?  OR, perhaps some  combination of these?  Oklahoma Homeschool’s site has lots of good information about this, as does A-Z Home’s Cool Homeschool site.  If you are still not sure about your child’s learning style, don’t worry about it; just observe your child as you go along, and note your child’s most successful learning experiences.  Finally, remember that it’s better for young children to learn using hands-on/several different modalities (see it/hear it/play with it/etc.) 

8.  Research methods and curriculums. If you feel totally lost, a good place to start is (again!)   Oklahoma Homeschool. Be sure to print up and use the Curriculum Planner Worksheets—especially the first one, which will help you assess your preferred methods of teaching (scroll down to find it.)  Another helpful site is Home School Curriculum Advisor .  (Just Google “homeschool methods”, though, and you’ll get thousands of results.)

          The most commonly used methods are traditional textbook/worktext (a textbook with “fill in the blanks” included); unit studies (see my posts that explain units), literature approaches, including Charlotte Mason, and the classical approach…but there are many more.  You should know that most homeschoolers are “eclectic”, meaning that  they customize and combine several different methods, and use several different curriculums (versus ordering a “boxed” curriculum from one supplier.)  My preferred methods include the “Beechick” approach with elements of unit studies/Charlotte Mason/literature approach and Notebooking.  (Many different methods fit together perfectly.)

        Before you order anything, remember to ask yourself:  Can I teach this without using a curriculum?  Does this fit the methods I like to use, and my children’s learning style?   (For much more on choosing and using curriculum inluding 20+ important tips, read Homepreschool and Beyond.

9.  Gather your materials.  Start simply.  Start by choosing your Bible curriculum; it’s the most important.  I find that once I choose my Bible curriculum, the rest seems to fall into place.  It could be as simple as a Bible story book or a devotional book, or it could mean a more formal “curriculum.”  You might even find what you need at your local Bible bookstore—especially if your children are young.  (See Homepreschool and Beyond for more details.)  I encourage new homeschoolers to start with only 4 subjects:  Bible, math, language arts, and reading aloud (for us, a unit study.)  This will give you time to break into the homeschool routine, and discover what works for your family.  You might even discover that you and your children are enjoying the read aloud time so much, that you want to stick with it and continue to use a literature/unit study approach.

          If you are pulling your children out of public school, you might want to allow your children some “detox” time before you begin, and then, you might consider slowly adding to your daily routine (again, start with Bible) until you are doing all your subjects daily.

 10. Set up a simple daily routine (see “Routine” tab.) Remember, it doesn’t have to be timed to the minute; just a simple schedule of “what comes next” will suffice.  Be sure to keep your lessons short and give your children frequent breaks.

            Now you’re ready to get started!

       Remember, relationship is more important than curriculum.  It is the love, time, and attention that you give to your children that is the most important element of your homeschool.  The heart of homeschooling is time spent together reading aloud and discussing what you’ve learned.  Whatever curriculum/method you use, be sure not to overlook homeschooling’s greatest strengths:  a) One-on-one attention (beware of any method that asks your children to work too independently),  b) Conversation, and C) Individualizing the curriculum (your child might need 1rst grade math, 2nd grade phonics, and 3rd grade history–and that’s OK!) 

           You can make due with almost any curriculum if you have to, but it’s almost impossible to homeschool successfully without developing healthy, loving relationships, so make the main thing the main thing! (See the Relationships tab.)

           May the Lord richly bless you as you start homeschooling!


This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.  © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Curriculum, Deciding to Homeschool or Hompreschool, Getting Started, Goals, Homeschool, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Teaching Children to be Gracious

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 13, 2010

Teaching Through Parenting       

          The hardest thing about teaching children any character trait is modeling it for them.  And if we want our children to learn graciousness, we have to make sure they see graciousness in action~~through us.  This is the hardest part of parenting…changing ourselves.  Anne Ortland says, “Successful  parenting means: One, becoming what you should be,  and two, staying close enough to the children that it will rub off.”  She challenges us further by asking, “What will you become, in order that your offspring may turn out to be great human beings for God?”  (Disciplines of the  Home.) 

           Mrs. Ortland’s quotes neatly summarize what the Bible says about discipling our children. Proverbs 23:26 says, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Luke 6:40 says, “The disciple (we could insert “student,” or “child” here) is not above his master (parents); but every one that is perfect shall be as his master (parents).”

           When our young children are misbehaving, we should always look to ourselves first—because young children reflect all we say and do with their behaviors.  Before we can help our children change, we must change ourselves.  “Do as I say, not as I do” just doesn’t cut it.  Good parenting is just as much about controlling ourselves as it is controlling our children—remembering that as much is “caught” as is “taught.” 

           Yes, parents are teaching their children all the time– whether they intend to or not. We consciously teach them about the world, but we also unconsciously teach them with our behavior and our attitudes.  We need to be sure that the lessons we are teaching are the lessons we want our children to learn.  (In my book, I call this “teaching through parenting.”)

Teaching Graciousness~Systematically         

           A large part of graciousness boils down to good manners—and manners can be systematically taught. A good book to start with is The Family Book of Manners, by Hermine Hartley.  This book could be used with preschoolers and/or older children (tackle one behavior/manner a week.)

          We say a little something we call a “character catechism” along with our memory verses most mornings that I adapted from Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… in You and Your Kids by Scott Turansky, & Joanne Miller):

~”How do we obey?  Everyday, all the way, in a quick and cheerful way.” 

~God wants us to honor others.  What does honor mean? 
1. Treating others special.
2.  Doing more than what is expected (going the extra mile.)
3.  Having a good attitude.
~I have a chance to show honor to people when:
1.  I am told to do something.
2.  I am told, “No.”
3.  When someone dishonors me.

Golden Rule Poem:
“Be you to others kind and true, as you’d have others be to you; and neither do nor say to men, whatever you would not take again.”   ~Author unknown

           I just picked up a real treasure for my boys:  A 1940 version of the Boy Scout’s Handbook.  We are going to begin reciting the “Boy Scout Pledge” (with a few of my own tweaks):
“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Golden Rule…to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong and morally straight, and to do a good turn daily.  A Christian should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  Be prepared.” 

 Things to do:
~Set a good example for your children.
~Memorize Bible verses with your children, and practice them every morning during your devotions.
~Develop your own “character catechism” to practice during devotions (I’m working on a more complete version.)
~Practice being good:  Role-play manners with your children.  Act out possible scenarios, and practice proper responses. 
~Label your children’s character traits throughout the day:  “That was very kind of you.”   “Thank-you for sharing with your sister.  That was very unselfish of you, and it shows real love.”   “What a good helper you are!   You’ve done your good deed for the day.”   OR:  “You need to keep your hands to yourself.  Hitting is not kind.”  “Your tone of voice is not honoring me.  Can you say that again in a pleasant tone of voice?” 
~Read books to your children that will teach them character traits.  Look for examples of the character traits exemplified in books and real life, and point them out to your children.

 Suggested Books: 

           An especially good series, although not written from a Christian viewpoint, is A Child’s Book About… (Being Lazy, Being Mean, Disobeying, Interrupting, Throwing Tantrums, etc-many other titles), a “Help Me Be Good Book”, by Joy Berry (preschool age and up.)  Another favorite for our family is Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank-You Book, by Richard Scarry, which contains the story of Pig Will and Pig Won’t, a little pig who learns to be cheerful, cooperative, and helpful around the house. Other books to read:

 If Everybody Did, by Jo Ann Stover

 What Do You Do, Dear/What Do You Say, Dear? , by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak

 What Would Jesus Do? Charles M. Sheldon’s Classic In His Steps now retold for children, by Mack Thomas  

 Books for Parents: 

Creative Correction:  Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline, Lisa Welchel   

Don’t Make Me Count To Three, Ginger Plowman (my favorite; shows how to use Bible verses to teach character and reach the heart.)

 Etiquette Plus: Polishing Life’s Useful Skills, by Inge P. Cannon (use with children 6 and up.)

 For Instruction in Righteousness, A Topical Reference Guide for Biblical Child Training, by Pam Forster

 Hands-On Character Building, Rick and Marilyn Boyer

Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook, by Sonja Shafer

 Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes…In You and Your Kids!  and Good and Angry, by Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller

This post contains excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. © 2010 Susan Lemons,  all rights reserved.

Posted in Book Lists, Character Traits, Curriculum, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Spiritual Matters | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Character Trait: Graciousness

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 12, 2010

       Recent events in my life have left me pondering the character trait graciousness.  At first I was thinking of it only as it refers to kindness, hospitality, and good manners.  But as I researched it, I realized that graciousness is perhaps the most important character trait of all.

        Graciousness encompasses all other character traits.  Here is the definition of “gracious”, from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

1. Favorable; kind; friendly; as, “the envoy meet with a gracious reception.”

2.  Favorable; kind; benevolent; merciful; disposed to forgive offenses and impart unmerited blessings.

3.  Favorable; expressing kindness and favor.  

4.  Proceeding from divine grace; as a person in a gracious state.

           Here is a more modern definition, taken from  Noah Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language:

1. Abounding in grace or mercy; manifesting love, or bestowing mercy; characterized by grace; beneficent; merciful; disposed to show kindness or favor; condescending; as, his most gracious majesty.

2. Abounding in beauty, loveliness, or amiability; graceful; excellent.

3. Produced by divine grace; influenced or controlled by the divine influence; as, gracious affections. 

        Synonyms:  Virtuous.  Good.  Self-sacrificing.  Kind.  Friendly; with kind condescension (in other words, being kind even to those you think are “beneath” you and/or those who are younger or less knowledgeable than you.)  Dignity.  Charm.  Class. 

        Antonyms: Immoral. Bad.  Selfish.  Rude.  Harsh.  Unkind. Unbecoming.  Unmerciful. Unfriendly. Annoying. 

       We often associate graciousness with the old south and kind hospitality–or with older, Godly women who set good examples for us…

 Titus 2: 3-5 (Amplified Bible):  Bid the older women similarly to be reverent and devout in their deportment as becomes those engaged in sacred service, not slanderers…They are to give good counsel and be teachers of what is right and noble, so that they will wisely train the young women to be sane and sober of mind (temperate, disciplined) and to love their husbands and their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured (kindhearted), adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands, that the word of God may not be exposed to reproach (blasphemed or discredited).

        …But we should associate the word “gracious” with God.  The root of the word gracious is grace.  Praise God for his Grace, which is a part of the very nature of God.  Without the undeserved grace God has given us, we would all be lost in our sins for eternity. 

       The very first time the scriptures describe the nature of God, the word “gracious” is used:  

Exodus 34:6-7:  The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin….  (NIV)

        This theme–in fact, these same words (“compassionate and gracious God”), are used over and over in the scriptures.   

          God is gracious, and we are to imitate Him.  I think we could take it a step further and say that graciousness is part of holiness—and we are called to grow in holiness: 

 1 Peter 1:16  For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

 3 John 1:11   Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.

        The word “gracious” is epitomized in the Golden Rule and in the phrase, “What would Jesus do?”  It’s all about treating others with kindness, consideration, and class.  It’s about having good manners.  It’s about love.

 John 13:34 (NIV) A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

         In the workplace, graciousness is the epitome of professionalism. In the home, graciousness is shown in sacrificial love. On the freeway, a gracious woman defers her rights for the sake of others.

        Traditionally, graciousness has been a sign of a good upbringing.  Conversely, a lack of graciousness will effect your reputation in a negative way.

 How to be a Gracious Person

-Always help others feel comfortable—even if you are uncomfortable.

-Be friendly, even if you feel shy.  Give a firm handshake, and look people in the eye when you are talking to them (when listening to them, too!) 

-Use good manners. 

-Be a servant to others.

-Gracious people take criticism graciously, even when the criticism is unjust.  It’s normal to feel an immediate need to defend ourselves, especially if our reputation is at stake…but it is best to keep quiet and not let the heat of the moment overcome us. 

-Don’t speak when you are angry.  Avoid arguments and disagreements. 

-Accept constructive criticism with poise.

 Remember that:

-A gracious person would never set about to hurt another person purposely, nor seek revenge for wrongs done (whether real or perceived.)

-A gracious person, when wronged, will seek a peaceable resolution privately.  A gracious person doesn’t gossip, grumble about others, or make private disagreements public.

-Graciousness, or a lack thereof, reveals your true heart and character. 

           Every day we are given chances to practice graciousness:  When we are driving and someone cuts us off or forces their way into our lane; when our children are being silly and loud, ignoring our commands to stop; when we are sick, cranky or tired; when someone is sick and needs extra care; when our husband calls at the last minute to say he’s bringing the boss home for dinner (or to say he’s not going to be home for dinner—and you’ve taken the time to fix him his favorite!) 

          It isn’t easy to be gracious.  It is a character trait that seems to have almost disappeared in the world today—even amongst Christians.  All too often, we demand our “rights”.  We want things to go our way. We are selfish.  We even long for revenge when others hurt us.  But I am more convinced than ever that I want to be a gracious person.  I want to be a reflection of God’s Grace on earth.  How about you?

 Matthew 16:24   Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

      Next time:  Teaching Graciousness to Children

 © 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Character Traits, Encouragement, Goals, Holiness, Mothering, Relationships | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Preschool Unit Studies, Preschool Themes: What Do They Look Like?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 2, 2010

          OK, you’ve decided on your topics (themes) and are ready to get going!  But what should a preschool unit study look like?  What types of activities should be included in your unit–and how many of them do you need? 

          The first thing to remember is to  keep it simple.   There is no “rule” stating what a unit study “should” be or “should” contain.  Reading picture books is the bulk of our preschool “unit studies”.  But whenever we can, we add simple activities that go along with our theme.  This isn’t an obsession; I don’t go crazy with it; we simply add activities when we think of them. Here are some elements you might think about when you are planning a preschool/Kindergarten unit study:

~Books, both fiction and non-fiction (if appropriate); this is your most important element! If this is all you have to offer your children, that’s OK!

 ~Music: Music related to the theme (for older kids, music written during the time period of the theme.)  For the farm unit, we’d sing “Farmer in the Dell”, “Old MacDonald”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” etc.

 ~Finger plays/poetry/nursery rhymes: Poems, finger plays or action rhymes about the unit. For a farm unit, we’d do finger plays like “5 Little Ducks”; nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep, and poems such as the Giving Farm, by Vicki Witcher http://www.kinderkorner.com/farm.html .

~Art and crafts: I like to keep art as open-ended as possible.  Use projects that have a set result (that “should” look a certain way) sparingly, and concentrate on open-ended art ideas instead (I included a list of more than 50 such projects in my book.)   Examples of art for a farm unit: Draw or trace the shape of a cow, and then finger paint or paint on it; draw or trace the shape of a lamb, then cover with cotton balls; paint with milk paint, paint or write with feathers, etc.

 ~Projects/activities: This includes cooking experiences, science experiences/experiments/exploration, Montessori type activities (hands on, small muscle), large muscle activities, and so on.  For a farm unit, we might: Look at and sort different types of seeds; put whipping cream into a jar and shake until it turns into butter; sprout beans in a clear glass or zippy bag, start a garden, and so on.

~Dramatic play:  Use dress up clothes, props, and prop boxes to inspire your children to “pretend” about your unit.  For example, for the farm unit, you might have overalls, boots, and a big hat to wear (traditional “farmer” clothes); a rake and other gardening tools to play with outside (supervise carefully), etc.  You can find some great ideas HERE  and HERE

 ~Videos:  Used sparingly, these can be a great supplement-especially when it comes to science (documentaries.) Warning: Watch out of evolutionary content.

~Field trips or virtual field trips: Icing on the cake! Not every unit will have field trips; they can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. For our farm unit, we watched several “virtual” tours of farms, visited a dairy farm, went to our grocery store where we talked about which produce grows where (Does it grow on a tree?  Under the ground?  On a bush?), and where products come from (Meat:  Bacon = pig; beef = cow;  milk products & how they are made, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, etc);  for a wrap-up, we went to our county fair.)

          Be careful not to go crazy with these! A few really good elements make a more enjoyable unit study than a bunch of meaningless ones. A rule of thumb for a two-week study (for preschool/Kindergarten) would be: 10-12 books; 1-2 songs to learn; 1-2 finger plays; 4-8 different art/crafts (not all have to be related to the unit–just offer them throughout the week); 4-8 hands on projects/activities; 1 creative/dramatic play activity, 1-2 field trips (if possible).  Every element does not have to be present.  The idea is to make your “study” meaningful and fun.   Remember, the single most important thing you can do to help your preschooler learn is to read aloud to her.  As long as you do that while providing a loving, consistent, creative home environment with lots of time for free play, you’ll do just fine.

Next post: Unit For A Day


Portions of this post are excerpts from the book,Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission. 

© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.

Posted in Art, Crafts, Curriculum, Goals, Homepreschool, Homeschool, Music, Reading Aloud, Uncategorized, Unit Studies | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

What Should a Four Year Old Know?

Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 13, 2010

***Don’t forget to tell your friends to link to this site for a chance to win my book!  Right now, Homeschooling in a Bilingual Home is in the lead, with eleven clicks on my site!***

         I have been disturbed by the trend in homepreschool circles to push young children into early academics.  So many parents have fallen for the public school’s curriculum push down and believe that they must force feed their preschoolers academic “facts” to get them “ready for Kindergarten”.  Somewhere they have found a list of skills that “every four-year old should know,” and with the best of intentions, they diligently teach this list to their preschoolers…turning life into a list.  While seeking the “good” for their children, they overlook the “best”:   The things their children really need:  Relationships.  Routine.  Readiness.  Reading Aloud.  Imagination.  Play.  And most of all, learning about God.

        Here is one of my favorite articles about what preschoolers should be learning.   Note that embedded in this post from Magical Childhood, is a link to World Book’s Scope and Sequence (a traditional “list” of what children “should” know).  Take a look at it; I think you’ll be surprised. 

      What should a 4 year old know? 

          By Alicia Bayer of Magical Childhood (used with permission.) 

I was on a parenting bulletin board recently and read a post by a mother who was worried that her 4 1/2 year old did not know enough. “What should a 4 year old know?” she asked.1.  She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.  

Most of the answers left me not only saddened but pretty soundly annoyed. One mom posted a laundry list of all of the things her son knew. Counting to 100, planets, how to write his first and last name, and on and on. Others chimed in with how much more their children already knew, some who were only 3. A few posted URL’s to lists of what each age should know. The fewest yet said that each child develops at his own pace and not to worry.

It bothered me greatly to see these mothers responding to a worried mom by adding to her concern, with lists of all the things their children could do that hers couldn’t. We are such a competitive culture that even our preschoolers have become trophies and bragging rights. Childhood shouldn’t be a race.

So here, I offer my list of what a 4 year old should know.

1.  He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.  

2.  She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.  

3.  He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he could care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he’ll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud.  

4.  She should know that the world is magical and that so is she. She should know that she’s wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous. She should know that it’s just as worthy to spend the day outside making daisy chains, mud pies and fairy houses as it is to practice phonics. Scratch that– way more worthy.  

But more important, here’s what parents need to know.  

1.  That every child learns to walk, talk, read and do algebra at his own pace and that it will have no bearing on how well he walks, talks, reads or does algebra.  

2.  That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but mom or dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.  

3.  That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.  

4.  That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. Most of us could get rid of 90% of our children’s toys and they wouldn’t be missed, but some things are important– building toys like legos and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials (good stuff), musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress up clothes and books, books, books. (Incidentally, much of this can be picked up quite cheaply at thrift shops.) They need to have the freedom to explore with these things too– to play with scoops of dried beans in the high chair (supervised, of course), to knead bread and make messes, to use paint and play dough and glitter at the kitchen table while we make supper even though it gets everywhere, to have a spot in the yard where it’s absolutely fine to dig up all the grass and make a mud pit.  

5.  That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids. Yes, we all need undisturbed baths, time with friends, sanity breaks and an occasional life outside of parenthood. But we live in a time when parenting magazines recommend trying to commit to 10 minutes a day with each child and scheduling one Saturday a month as family day. That’s not okay! Our children don’t need Nintendos, computers, after school activities, ballet lessons, play groups and soccer practice nearly as much as they need US. 

They need fathers who sit and listen to their days, mothers who join in and make crafts with them, parents who take the time to read them stories and act like idiots with them. They need us to take walks with them and not mind the .1 MPH pace of a toddler on a spring night. They deserve to help us make supper even though it takes twice as long and makes it twice as much work. They deserve to know that they’re a priority for us and that we truly love to be with them.  

And now back to those 4 year old skills lists…..http://www.worldbook.com/wb/Students?curriculum
Since we homeschool, I occasionally print out the lists and check to see if there’s anything glaringly absent in what my kids know. So far there hasn’t been, but I get ideas sometimes for subjects to think up games about or books to check out from the library. Whether you homeschool or not, the lists can be useful to see what kids typically learn each year and can be reassuring that they really are doing fine.

I know it’s human nature to want to know how our children compare to others and to want to make sure we’re doing all we can for them. Here is a list of what children are typically taught or should know by the end of each year of school, starting with preschool:

If there are areas where it seems your child is lacking, realize that it’s not an indication of failure for either you or your child. You just haven’t happened to cover that. Kids will learn whatever they’re exposed to, and the idea that they all need to know these 15 things at this precise age is rather silly. Still, if you want him to have those subjects covered then just work it into life and play with the subject and he’ll naturally pick it up. Count to 60 when you’re mixing a cake and he’ll pick up his numbers. Get fun books from the library about space or the alphabet. Experiment with everything from backyard snow to celery stalks in food coloring. It’ll all happen naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure.

My favorite advice about preschoolers is on this site though:

What does a 4 year old need? 

Much less than we realize, and much more.

       Visit Magical Childhood at http://www.magicalchildhood.com/index.htm .

(Thanks, Alicia!)

Posted in Goals, Homepreschool, Mothering, Parenting, Readiness, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »